The West Virginia mining disaster that took 29 lives this past week is likely to spur new efforts at mining safety legislation in Congress, according to a leading Washington analyst speaking on the Platts Energy Week television programme last Sunday (11 April).

Kevin Book, managing director of ClearView Energy Partners, told Platts Energy Week guest host John Kingston that the deaths at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine “[are] probably going to be used to reframe the debate in terms of safety, and it is going to be difficult for Congress not to do something given how close they came before.”

Book made reference to a failed effort in 2008 to tight mining safety regulations, which passed the House but failed in the Senate. Many of the arguments that killed the bill in the Senate were “economic in nature,” Book said, with opponents arguing that new costs injected into mining companies would have an adverse impact on employment.

Asked if new regulations would make any difference, given the enormous backlog of fines and other infractions that have come to light in the wake of the incident, Book said that the Mine Safety and Health Administration is now “being run by folks who have a slightly more labour- aligned and labour-protective focus than in the last administration.” And in the wake of the West Virginia deaths, “Congress is going to be watching very closely,” Book said. “If there has been a weakness in oversight before, I wouldn’t expect to see it going forward.”

Platts Energy Week is a new weekly half-hour television programme for discussion and debate on U.S. energy policy, produced by W*USA Television and Platts, a leading global energy and metals information provider. The programme airs every Sunday at 8:00 a.m. ET on W*USA Television in the greater Washington D.C. metropolitan area and shortly thereafter online.